The Caribbean Tourism Organization’s (CTO) return of the State of the Tourism Industry Conference (SOTIC) 2023, in Providenciales was “a tremendous success,” the CTO said in a release on Wednesday (Oct. 18).
The first staging of SOTIC since the pandemic, the conference saw insightful and informative discussions over two days at the host hotel, The Shore Club, Long Ba, under the theme “Invest. Innovate. Inspire. A new model for Caribbean tourism growth”.
Turks and Caicos Islands Governor, Her Excellency Dileeni Daniel-Selvaratnam, said in her welcome remarks that the theme highlights the critical position of the travel and tourism industry as a vehicle for social and economic development, which needs to be underpinned by long-term tourism policies that account for impact investment, waste management, conservation and sustainability.
Honorable Charles Washington Missick, Premier of The Turks and Caicos Islands, in his remarks, urged delegates to work together to make the Tourism Industry sustainable, particularly in the face of the challenges posed by climate change for Small Island Development States (SIDS).
Honorable Josephine Connolly, Minister of Tourism for The Turks and Caicos Islands, in her welcome address, spoke with pride of the Carrying Capacity Study, The Turks and Caicos Islands in the process of conducting.
The first Caribbean country to conduct an in-depth study of entire the tourism industry.
“It reflects our dedication to safeguarding our pristine beaches, lush landscapes, and vibrant culture. It embodies our promise to protect what makes the Turks and Caicos Islands unique, ensuring that future generations can revel in the same beauty that has enchanted us for centuries,” she said.
In his opening address, the Honorable Kenneth Bryan, Chairman of the CTO Council of Ministers and Commissioners said the “Caribbean is one of the fastest growing tourism regions in the world and in order to keep up with the rapidly evolving pace of change, we have to be willing to do things differently to maintain our competitive edge”.
Day one’s theme “Tourism Investment and Financing in the Caribbean” saw keynote speaker Franz Rojas-Ortuste, Director of Water and Sanitation Analysis Division at CAF- the Development Bank of Latin America and the Caribbean, look at potential areas for investment, urging the region to maximise niches such as festivals and gastronomy to bring in millions of dollars like their Latin American counterparts.
The first day also featured a Ministerial Panel on Investment Trends, Partnership and Maximising Tourism Growth, a message from the UNWTO on green investments and a panel discussion on strategies for positioning tourism for new investment opportunities.
On day two, under the theme Exploring the Drivers for Caribbean Tourism Growth, keynote speaker Doug Lansky, Global Tourism and Travel expert challenged stakeholders to find creative and innovative ways to incorporate sustainability into their operations and enhance tourist spend.
There were robust panel discussions on Aviation Competitiveness in the Caribbean with the thorny issue of inter-regional travel taking centre stage.
There were also panel discussions on Digital Transformation in Tourism, Engaging the Filmed Entertainment Industry to advance Caribbean tourism and a path towards growth of tourism in the context of the Turks and Caicos Islands experience.
The week kicked off with a welcome at the Grace Bay Club on Monday night which showcased the culture and cuisine of the Turks and Caicos Islands.
There were performances from the TCI songbird Barbara Johnson, David Bowen and TUCA, Mike ‘The General”, the Q Band Lynks and top sound system Prime DJs.
The close of the conference saw Tourism Ministers and delegates immersing themselves in The Turks and Caicos Island's culture at the popular Thursday night Fish Fry where they enjoyed local cuisine and performances from Provision band, Elroy Simmons and TCI Dolls as well as a Junkanoo display.
Outside of the formal activities, Ministers of Tourism were treated to a private dinner at Parrot Cay and the regional and international media experienced tours to North and Middle Caicos, South Caicos and Grand Turk as well as dinner at Crackpot Kitchen and Kokomos Botanical Resort.
The week closed with the Youth Congress at Beaches Resort Villages and Spa in the Bight, which saw the region’s youth from 14 countries present their plans for the tourism industry in their respective islands.
First place went to Naomi Onwufuju of the British Virgin Islands, second place, Jordan Greig of Barbados and third place, Jael Morgan of Tobago.